The fact that Andruw Jones has hit more home runs in a season than any Brave–up to and including Hank Aaron–will blind many voters when it’s time to make their marks on official MVP ballots. While on the surface 2005 seems like the monster season everyone always assumed Jones was capable of having, when it’s all said and done, this will not be his best year, or even his second-best. He could, with a strong finish, work it up to third-best by season’s end, though. By Wins Above Replacement:
Year WARP3 2000 10.3 2002 9.7 1998 9.1 1999 9.1 2003 8.9 2005 8.7
Obviously, given his career-high .311 EqA in 2005, he’s hitting better than ever, so what’s the holdup? It’s his defense, which is experiencing a down year. Looking at his Batting Runs Above Replacement and Fielding Runs Above Replacement, we find that he is, conversely to his offensive output, having his least successful year with the glove. Combining the two, we get this:
Year BRAR FRAR Total 2000 51 43 94 2002 48 40 88 1998 36 46 82 1999 36 46 82 2003 39 41 80 2005 54 21 75
What Jones has done with the glove in his best seasons is remarkable. The game’s greatest defensive center fielders have failed to match Jones’ six different seasons with a FRAR of at least 40. Curt Flood did it three times, and his three best years (45, 43, 43) are about equal to those of Jones, but his next three fall short. Willie Mays peaked at 45 and 42 but he drops to 34, 33 and 33 after that. Joe DiMaggio, “The man who made everything look easy?” Are you kidding? His all-time best was 31. Now Dom DiMaggio had a 44 once, but that his was his only plus-40 season. Tris Speaker? Topped out at 40. Jim Edmonds? 38 is his high. The multiple hardware winners of the Gold Glove era: Ken Griffey Jr., Garry Maddox, Kirby Puckett, Paul Blair? 37 was the highest among them. While Devon White did have a single-season score higher than Jones, (47 in 1989), he cracked 40 only one other time.
No, the only center fielder who can challenge Andruw Jones’ best five years is Fielder Jones. His best seasons came right around 100 years ago with the White Sox. He has the single-best FRAR ever for a center fielder, 51 in 1907. His next four are: 45, 44, 44 and 32.) The total FRAR for their five best seasons is 216 for both of them.
In all, there have been 26 40-plus FRAR performances by center fielders since 1901. Andruw Jones has six of them.
Looking at Jones’ seasons listed above, perhaps it’s time to redefine what is meant by “40/40 Club.” Maybe it should be a player who cracks 40 in both BRAR and FRAR, something Jones did in his two best seasons. It’s not as rare as the 40-homer/40-steal accomplishment, but it’s certainly a lot more telling of a player’s contribution to his team’s performance. There are quite a few Hall of Famers–even some with sterling defensive reputations–who do not make this 40/40 Club. The most surprising is probably Mike Schmidt. (Among his relative peers at third base, Graig Nettles and Brooks Robinson both did it once, and Darrell Evans did it in both 1973 and 1974.)
To rarify the air a bit, perhaps it might be necessary to up the thresholds to 50/50. Johnny Bench managed this feat three times. Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Collins and Ernie Banks also pulled it off. I’ll present a more complete list at some point in the future.
Now that Barry Bonds has reported for duty for the last three weeks of the 2005 season, what is the upper limit we can expect from him? With 20 Giants games to go heading into his debut last night, how much damage can we expect him to do in such a limited amount of time? Putting a cap of 75 plate appearances, these are the nine men who managed to get into double figures in VORP:
YEAR G MLV VORP Shane Spencer 1998 26 15.7 15.8 Mike Ryan 2003 27 12.2 13.0 Craig Wilson 1998 12 12.0 14.4 Rudy Pemberton 1996 13 11.4 12.2 J.D. Drew 1998 14 11.0 11.5 Walt Bond 1962 12 10.7 10.6 Gary Ward 1980 13 10.5 10.6 Mike Kinkade 2002 36 9.7 10.4 Darryl Strawberry 1999 24 10.5 10.0
A couple of notes: For the longest time, the late Walt Bond was the Kall-up King. Where did his spectacular short run get him? A trip to Jacksonville of the International League for 1963. That’s not the Pirates’ Craig Wilson, by the way, but the White Sox player who was done by the time the current Craig Wilson got to the majors.
Let’s look at the EqAs for these players, adjusted for all-time:
If Bonds comes back at his playing level of the recent past (.424, .449, .410 and .453 adjusted EqAs over the past four seasons), we can expect him to dial in somewhere around the Pemberton level. If he takes it easy and only plays nine or ten games, he won’t quite get there, but, given no signs of rustiness or inhibition from his injury, it would be realistic to expect a VORP of around 11 or 12.
James Click and Keith Woolner contributed research to this column.